10 Early Signs of Lupus to look for

What is lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes swelling (inflammation) and a wide variety of symptoms. Lupus affects everyone differently. Some people have only a few mild symptoms and others have many, more severe symptoms.

Symptoms usually start in early adulthood, anywhere from the teen years into the 30s. People with lupus generally experience flare-ups of symptoms followed by periods of remission. That’s why early symptoms are easy to dismiss.

Because early symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, having them doesn’t necessarily mean you have lupus. Early symptoms can include:

  • fatigue
  • fever
  • hair loss
  • rash
  • pulmonary problems
  • kidney problems
  • swollen joints
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • thyroid problems
  • dry mouth and eyes

1. Fatigue

About 90 percent of people with lupus experience some level of fatigue. An afternoon nap does the trick for some people, but sleeping too much during the day can lead to insomnia at night. It may be difficult, but if you can remain active and stick to a daily routine, you may be able to keep your energy levels up.

Speak to your doctor if you’re living with debilitating fatigue. Some causes of fatigue can be treated.

2. Unexplained fever

One of the early symptoms of lupus is a low-grade fever for no apparent reason. Because it may hover somewhere between 98.5˚F (36.9˚C) and 101˚F (38.3˚C), you might not think to see a doctor. People with lupus may experience this type of fever off and on.

A low-grade fever could be a symptom of inflammation, infection, or imminent flare-up. If you have recurrent, low-grade fevers, make an appointment to see your doctor.

3. Hair loss

Thinning hair is often one of the first symptoms of lupus. Hair loss is the result of inflammation of the skin and scalp. Some people with lupus lose hair by the clump. More often, hair thins out slowly. Some people also have thinning of the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hair. Lupus can cause hair to feel brittle, break easily, and look a bit ragged, earning it the name “lupus hair.”

Lupus treatment usually results in renewed hair growth. But if you develop lesions on your scalp, hair loss in those areas may be permanent.

4. Skin rash or lesions

One of the most visible symptoms of lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash that appears over the bridge of the nose and on both cheeks. About 50 percent of people with lupus have this rash. It can occur suddenly or appear after exposure to sunlight. Sometimes the rash appears just before a flare-up.

Lupus can also cause non-itchy lesions in other areas of the body. Rarely, lupus can cause hives. Many people with lupus are sensitive to the sun, or even to artificial lighting. Some experience discoloration in the fingers and toes.

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